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United Way helps kids get in touch with `Harry'

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Elise Matney, 11, from left, Marcel Woods, 8, Eric Reynolds, 10, and Spencer Jacob, 7, dress up for a special showing of the latest Harry Potter film.

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Spiders and snakes and dragons. Oh, my.

Ask kids what they like about the new Harry Potter film, and they'll explain how it's a well-crafted fantasy that blends British humor and eye-popping special effects in such a way to produce a story that's exhilarating, scary, and fun.

Or something like that.

“Definitely not the spiders,” Aja Penn-Todd, 9, giggled when asked what she liked about Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. “They were big, they were hairy, they were creepy.”

Eight-year-old DeShawn Taylor said the most memorable scene was Harry's confrontation with a huge snake. Allaina Gibbs-Peraza, 9, gushed about Harry's “very spooky” encounter with a dragon. Christina Loar, 9, just liked the movie's overall edge-of-your-seat tension.

“Each time they made a loud noise, I jumped two inches out of my seat,” Christina said. “I like to get scared.”

Nearly 1,000 people - 971 to be exact - attended a special private showing the United Way had yesterday morning at the Showcase Cinemas Maumee complex. Two theaters were set aside, and 971 out of the total of 976 seats were taken.

The showing was arranged by the United Way's Young Leaders' Council as a way of encouraging literacy while providing a social outing between donors and children from United Way member agencies, Margaret Guyton-Stout, United Way development officer, said.

Literacy was encouraged in the sense that all 497 kids sponsored by donors were presented six weeks ago with their own copy of the J.K. Rowling book that inspired this film. Donors and their families who have given $1,000 or more to the United Way in the last year were invited to attend, as well as sponsor other children.

The same kind of social event was held last year during the Toledo-area premiere of the first Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Twelve-year-old Samantha Meacham said the movies helped validate and visualize words she read in both books. She said she especially liked the action in the new movie. “Actually, seeing it [the movie] made it [the book] a lot better,” she said.

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